It is quite easy to make a movie franchise out of a concept which is all style and no substance. The theory is simple: if people are willing to see one film with fast cars, alpha males and girls galore, they will keep going to see them. The Fast And The Furious films seem to bear this out, as they have staggered through losing their charismatic leading man, their extremely uncharismatic other leading man and a transplant to a wholly different country and set of characters. So the new Fast And Furious film which drops its definite articles has a rather amusing unique selling point. THE STARS OF THE ORIGINAL FILM RETURN: in a franchise which had made it crystal clear that it does not matter who is in the films.

So hail hail the gang is all here. Look its grumpy Vin Diesel who has shat on three franchises now (XXX and the Riddick films) and has a Producer credit, presumably to make the whole affair look less desperately like a comeback. Then there is Paul Walker, a man as dull as his name, who played the undercover cop turned to the dark side in not one but two Fast And Furiouses (2 Fast 2 Furious 2 Silly being the nadir). Look its Michelle Rodriguez, the one with actual charisma, though also with copious convictions for drink driving. Still these films are all about breaking the traffic laws. And hey isn’t that Jordana Brewster who, well, did she ever make another film? And look there is Sung Kang as Han from The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, one assumes to make sure there is some suggestion that the third film lives in this continuity. Best get him out of the way after the first five minutes.

And its a great first five minutes. Only slightly let down by:
a) It being the only five minutes the charismatic member of the cast (Michelle Rodriguez) appears in
b) The trailer for the film shown all of last year.

Yes Fast And Furious uses the hokiest of old plot devices to get the gang nearly all back together. The murder of one of their number, namely the charismatic one. And so we re-enter the world of dumb street racing, and then the infinitely more tedious to watch racing cars in mining tunnels. As we mourn the loss of the films charisma we see Diesel and Walker squaring up to each other via hitting, racing and most importantly THE MEANINGFUL SQUINT, whilst Jordana Brewster – er – makes a pot roast. None of it is in anyway engaging and, as noted above, there is only one thing which is close to the originals money shots of street racing. Instead the cop breaks the law more than the criminal, international law is breached massively and the gratuitous shots of gyrating ladies are hard to shoehorn in. This does not stop the film getting a 12A and a warning of SEXUALISED POSING (more details from the BBFC website which also explains why the brief cockfighting sequence was tolerated*).

There are Furious characters in Fast And Furious. Indeed two of the characters appear to be solely defined by their fury. And whilst there are sequences where cars are going fast, there is little sensation of speed in the film, it being at a loss to really know how to get that across to the viewer. And whilst its only 90 minutes long, the whole thing drags, unlike a drag race. Still roll on the fifth film, which I am sure under the current new restrictive naming rules, will end up as Fast Furious, or even FandF.

*Because three seconds of cockfighting is deemed as adequate “we’re in Mexico” characterisation.